tv Countdown With Keith Olbermann MSNBC May 14, 2010 8:00pm-9:00pm EDT
>> what's going on in philadelphia? >> arlen specter hope it's a big story coming out of this election, that this vote turned out hugely for him. president obama has been on radio for several weeks in the philadelphia area targeted at the african-american, he's on tv now. he has to create the mechanics against bob casey. win huge in the philadelphia media market. don't lose that bad in the rest of the state. >> arkansas, we know blanche lincoln is the leading votes, but -- >> that could make the runoff really, really interesting. i think it will be very tough for had he, it looks like she's going to have a runoff. the race with two other candidates, how do you get 51%? >> what's stopping holter's mow
meantm. >> she's run on being the chairman of the agriculture committee, she's run on being in washington. i think it's worked to an extent. arkansas has the small state mentality, this person can agree with us. but quick thing, the third guy in that democratic primary is running to the right of both of them in the primary. it's possible some of those people go to lincoln. though why do you go to the incumbent if you're not with her. >> and by the way, specter -- >> and also, chris, specter really running on the same thing in p.a. i saw him in pittsburgh the other night. he's talking about the pork he's bringing back, what he's done -- >> i've got 30 seconds. >> lightning round. >> the murtha seat. they're going to lose this special some. >> democrats could win this for one reason. they're going after the republican hard on economic issues, destroying the republican. >> if they do give -- >> got to go, brother.
>> if they do, dccc for that ground game. >> i'll get you back. "countdown" with keith olbermann starts right now. which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? the gulf. this is not 200,000 gallons of oil a day. this one independent expert estimates is 2,940,000 gallons of oil a day. bp did not just break the gulf of mexico, it was not accurate about how seriously it broke it. tonight, a man who frequently prosecuted oil spillers on what the law can do about this, and congressman from oregon on what the government can do about this. stop thinking about it as a bad oil spill. start thinking of it as a brilliant way to drain the earth's oil supply. the president peels the paint off the republicans on the
economy. >> after they drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back. no. >> ms. bendy straws sees a billboard. ms. bendy straws reads miss me yet with a picture of george w. bush. ms. bendy straws agrees then attacks t.a.r.p. which was george w. bush's idea. just the right time for a senate candidate to promote offshore drilling, right? or a sitting senator to claim our troops are so bigoted they will not try to save the guy in the foxhole with them if the guy is gay. and a story of man versus the bathroom medicine cabinet. james thurber's "nine needles." all the news and commentary now on "countdown."
good evening from new york. first, bp and the government told us that oil was gushing into the gulf at the rate of 1,000 barrels a day. on april 27th, the environmental group sky truth used satellite imagery to estimate the flow at five times faster. 5,000 barrels a day. the next day, over bp's objections, the government raised its estimate to 5,000 barrels. today, in our fifth story, three separate research scientists telling national public radio using calculations on new video of the gushing pipe, they issue a rate at ten times faster, 56,000 barrels a day, possibly as many as 84,000. this has been producing the equivalent of the valdez spill every five days. researchers calculating independently based on new video showing the oil's release from a 21-inch pipe 5,000 feet down, some of it apparently methane. most of it, clearly crude. "the new york times" reporting the administration got its 5,000 barrel figure using a formula explicitly not recommended for
large spills, and that bp has without explanation decided not to have two veteran analysts measure this one. the president said today stopping it is what matters and criticized the executives responsible. >> i have to say, though, i did not appreciate what i considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter. yet executives of bp, transocean and halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else. the american people could not have been impressed with that display, and i certainly wasn't. >> as yet another regulatory failure came to light, mr. obama also blamed the federal government, "the new york times" reporting that mms, the interior department agency responsible for oversight on drilling, violated environmental laws by approving leases, including the one spilling now, without getting permits from environmental agencies. mr. obama blamed a decade of mms coziness with big oil neglecting to mention that the interior
secretary ken salazar was applauded by big oil when mr. obama chose him to fix these problems. president obama today putting salazar front and center at his meeting today on the spill and charging salazar again to fix those problems. after almost a year and a half of his having failed to do so. >> for too long, for a decade or more, there's been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill. seems as if permits were too oftenish ooued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil. s. that cannot and will not happen anymore. to borrow an old phrase, we will trust, but we will verify. now, from the day he took office as interior secretary, ken salazar has recognized these problems and he's worked to solve them. >> since mr. obama and mr. salazar took office, the mms has approved three massive leases and 346 drilling plans without getting the environmental
permits required by federal law. so reports "the new york times." while bp tries two separate methods on two of the gushing holes down in the gulf, one, the so-called top hat to cap and funnel the leak, the other, a smaller pipe inserted into the gushing pipe, new drilling has already begun in the same oil field to vent the oil in controlled fashion before it reaches that breach. the oil industry newspaper "upstream" reporting work was stalled, could itself undergo a battery of tests based on protocalls from mms. bp telling "countdown" the relief drilling will resume, but when we asked whether it had been looked over, john crabtree said, i assume they did. i don't know. and whether this for a sect drill will have backup devices,
crabtree saying also, i don't know. the mms not replying at all today to the same set of questions supplied by "countdown" earlier. we're joined by congressman from oregon, vice chair on energy and independence and global warming. >> always my pleasure, keith. >> should we not know whether two new rigs operated by transocean, contracted for by bp, are going to use those acoustic switches or whether or not the blowout preventers will be up to snuff, not to mention the cementing process will be better? how is it not you, not i, not bp, maybe not mms can answer any of these questions at this point? >> it's appalling, isn't it? you would think in the aftermath of this disaster, which clearly represents multiple failures that we would be much more aggressive to make sure that we know the fundamentals. >> we're now one-third. way through the president's, presumably, first term.
if mineral management service still needs fixing, in your opinion, why does the president think the last two-thirds would be different under the same guy superadvising this? >> i share your frustration. but in all fairness to the president, this is a hopelessly flawed system. we saw in the last administration vivid examples where people in mms were literally in bed with the people that they were supposed to regulate. snorting cocaine, having sexual affairs, i mean, it is shameful. the administration has a whole series of things that they are seeking to address. i personally think that this is a reason why we should not be going ahead with more offshore drilling until we get it right. but frankly, this is a result of eight years of disastrous, nonoversight, and putting people in there who had no business
being in charge. >> to the question of what to do about drilling in a moment, but let me finish up on the agency here. if it's that corrupted and your point about literally in bed is absolutely legitimately verifiably true, would you not need to really go into there and have a team designed to replace that culture of corruption? i mean, you can't -- is it necessary to do it piecemeal, to accept that there will be this corruption over a certain period of time? >> they've installed there a really very capable woman, the recommendation of the secretary to split it is wise, i think a little overdue. but i don't disagree with you at all. but there is so much going on that needs to be dealt with, i hope that this is a wake-up call that we stop moving ahead with these leases and that there is more attention to getting this right so that we are not moving
further over the edge. >> about the evolution, finally, congressman, of this number of how much oil has been gushing. we started at 1,000 barrels a day. then it was 5,000 barrels a day after the environmental group used the satellite imagery. now we're hearing from the npr experts, 64,000. that's barrels, not gallons. do we have yet any measure just how bad this is, that five times "exxon valdez" every five days, suggests an environmental disaster. is the response proportional? is there something else that should be done? should we have submarines there? national guard troops there? what are we missing? >> your point is spot on. if we are having the equivalent of an "exxon valdez" more than every week, it suggests that it isn't just an incidental
question, as bp suggests. what we're concerned about stopping it rather than measuring it. if you don't know the magnitude, it really suggests that you may well be hampered in getting it right. and i don't think there's any reason to sugar coat this for the american public. >> do we need to temporarily shut down and do emergency inspections on all offshore or at least deep offshore oil rigs at this point? >> i mean, i don't want to extend the drilling perimeter at all. and i think it does raise serious questions about what is going on now. if there is such fundamental lack of following the law, and the procedures that routine environmental assessments were not made, that what we just heard a day ago in the energy in commerce committee that the so-called dead man's switch that's supposed to automatically active vate, you had to have
three separate conditions, all simultaneously before it would operate as opposed to any single one of which ought to push the panic button, it does raise questions about the integrity of what is going on now. >> a pleasure, sir. great thanks for your time. >> thank you, sir. lets turn to will carter, used to run the environmental crimes section of the u.s. attorney's office in l.a., now serves in the city's attorney's office there. thank you for your time tonight. >> thank you for having me. >> this was hinted at yesterday. you have experienced prosecuting these spillers. is it reasonable to suspect the justice department has already begun compiling evidence for possible prosecution? what would the parameters be? what would they be looking at? >> well, it's not only reasonable, it's essential. for two reasons, one, you had a tragic loss of life on that platform. plus a significant environmental harm that has been caused.
also disruption of business and the economy in the gulf. under the law, systems are supposed to be in place to prevent this loss of life and environmental damage. obviously something went wrong out on that platform to cause this problem. the investigation will answer those questions, and what they're going to be looking at obviously is the harm. we know that happened. second thing is intent. this investigation will answer why did this happen. was it an accident? or was it the result of intentional conduct. someone decided not to do something they were supposed to do. and thirdly, why they're going to look at this as a criminal investigation is because of the history of the target. bp has had a history in 2005 they had an explosion at a refinery in texas that killed 15 people and they were criminally prosecuted for that. for those reasons alone the department of justice should be opening an investigation. and it would be a shock if they did not. >> between the explosion, and
getting these awful pictures as we speak, of exactly what happened to that rig at least above the surface. you have the almost all the physical evidence is gone. you have the records missing. you have the sinking of the rig. you have everything else that you might want there. how do you go about finding evidence to build a case? >> well, the evidence is floating on the water. you've got millions of barrels of oil on the water, so you're going to, at a minimum, you're going to have a violation of the federal clean water act, whether it's a negligent discharge or intentional discharge. something happened that caused that oil to spill. so you're going to have millions of dollars of potential penalties for the spill of the oil. you're also going to have the evidence of the wildlife and habitat of the wildlife that is floating in the water now or washing up on shore and being treated. so you have wildlife violations. and those are all six-month violations or misdemeanors. the most serious violations are the ones that could be felonies,
ten years in federal prison. not just for people working on the platform, but for corporate officers. these laws specifically list corporate officers as responsible. what you would have to do is empanel a federal grand jury which would issue subpoenas to witnesses at both current and former employees to come before the grand jury, testify under oath. also issue grand jury subpoenas for documents. there would be test records, diaries, production logs. test records. inspection notices. all those things that you could gather now to defitermine testi failures or lack of testing altogether. >> william carter now on the l.a. city's attorney's office with experience in this field, great thanks for your time, sir. >> thank you for having me. from oil to money and if is suddenly less than six months to the midtermers and the oddity that while the democrats have not sold the effectiveness of
the stimulus yet to the electorate, the president does have significant credibility on the economy. and he may have just coined the democrat's cats catch phrase. dr! yeah, woo! [ announcer ] she's the queen of clean! the 2009 surgeon of the year, dr. nancy mendelsohn! [ male announcer ] doctors and nurses are true heroes. at ge, we're working to give them the innovation, fresh thinking, and advanced technology they need to keep bringing better health to more people. are you ready, mr. randall? let's do this! [ crowd cheering ] ♪
it could be the first catch phrase of the 2010 midterms. they drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back. the president has economy coattails. misbendy straws endorses the last president, then trashes the t.a.r.p. bailouts which were started by the last president. the danger is everyone is as hateful as you are, says our military men would not try as hard to save the life of the soldier next to them if that soldier is gay. and saving others tough week, through james thurber, man versus medicine cabinet, thurber's "nine needles."
everything is cyclical, especially in politics where yesterday's new blood is fueling today's anti-incumbent fever. fewer than 20 months after years of republican policies brought this country to the edge of another great depression, president obama now no longer subtly hoping voters will infer that last fact, in instead telling them bluntly why they might not want to return to gop rule. what the president and his party hope is a winning strategy this fall. testing out campaign metaphors at a fund-raiser here to help democrats win, painting republicans as messing things up and standing in the way of reform. >> after they drove the car into the ditch, made it as impossible
for us to dig it out, now they want the keys back. no. you can't drive. we don't want to have to go back into the ditch. we just got the car out. it would have been nice to get a little help from the other side of the aisle. just once in a while. you would have thought at a time of historic crisis that republican leaders would have been more willing to help us find a way out of this mess. particularly since they created the mess. >> the new nbc news/"wall street journal" poll revealing a huge gap of how president obama is viewed compared to democrats in congress. 51% saying obama was looking out for average americans versus corporate interests, but only 35% of congressional democrats, even fewer for republicans in
congress. 71% of the opinion that the gop places the interest of large corporations higher. republican senators saying the bailout worked but they'd really rather you keep that to yourself. cornyn of texas saying bailing out the financial sector was a necessary evil but he and senator alexander, both of whom voted for t.a.r.p., say they feel president obama has abused the legislation. now that senator bob bennett lost his nomination bid in utah, senator cornyn, struggling to protect his colleagues from anti-bailout backlash on the right wing of the party, tells tpm, quote, the facts are what they are. i think it depends on the ability of each person to articulate the rational for their vote. in other words, good luck, boys. lots to talk about with our own howard fineman. howard, good evening. >> hi, keith. >> the republicans drove the economy into a ditch. we can't give them back the key. does the president think he's hit upon the winning catch
phrase, et cetera, for his party in the midterms? >> i'm not sure it works in midtown manhattan where nobody drives, but yeah, i think he's going where he has to go here, keith. if you look at "the wall street journal"/nbc poll which is always, i think the most fascinating and neutral, you see that people don't like washington. they're distrustful of government. the opinions are divided about the president. but anywhere on the political landscape in that poll and in the country, the least liked political entity are the congressional republicans. in every number that you look at. and so that's what the president is focusing on. he's saying, you know, yeah, there's a talk that democrats are going to lose a lot of seats, republicans are going to gain a lot of seats. wait a minute, folks. do you realize who those people are? that's what the president said last night. >> in terms of style, campaign 2008 obama back there? do they need to see a lot more of him bv november? >> yeah, and in a subtle way, i
think the obama from 2008, keith, for the most part was not a table pounding guy. he was the guy who said, we need to fix the way washington works. we need some bipartisanship. now, the republicans will blame the president and so forth and so on, but the president, rather than a frontal attack at all times, although there will be that, will say part of the problem here is that republicans just won't play ball. they won't even extend a hand to help in any way, even though it was their problems and their mistake that's got us involved here. the only problem the president has is if he goes hard partisan himself, everywhere over the country, if he pounds the table and attacks republicans frontally on his own, he's also going to bring out a big republican turnout in a low turnout election. that's why he's got to be the philosophical president, not just the attack man. >> and he's got another problem, although maybe it's not his problem, maybe it is the democrats' failure to do this. the selling of the economic recovery, it seems to have worked okay for him, but the
other question in the nbc news poll that's worth looking at, only 18% of voters surveyed believe the stimulus is helping the economy, 20% saying it will still help in the future, 42% saying it's not going to help at all. the administration, the democrats, maybe the president have failed to sell the stim. they've lost that to the republicans, five-plus months to go. what do they do, if anything, to try to turn it around? >> having talked to some democratic strategies this afternoon and one of the top white house people, they have -- they say they've got to be patient about it. because the fact is that four out of five americans think that the economy is still a mess. that many think we're still in a recession. yes, there's some hope for the future, but not right this minute. and you can't really get out there and argue and bang the drum about the huge success of the stimulus when you've got high unemployment and people still worried about the recession. so they're counseling patience and time but they're also going
to make the contrast. if i've learned anything about politics in all my years of covering it, it's that it's a game of contrast, a game of compared with what, compared with whom. that's why the president said last night, yeah, we've got our problems and we've still got a long way to go, but don't let those people back in power. you don't like them and they made the mistakes of the past. >> was that that message from cornyn to anybody else who voted on the republican side for t.a.r.p. was that in fact, good luck? >> well, the problem is the republicans have no message. >> yeah. >> if you look at the poll, keith, and you look at republican voters in that poll, why they want to come out and vote this time, we asked them. most of them want to come out and vote because they don't like obama, very few of them want to come out because they like their own republicans. as a matter of fact, they like the tea party better than the congressional republicans, and there are no ideas there in the congressional republican party, you know -- if you look at the contrast from when newt gingrich was running in the early '90s, the similar number was people wanted to come out and vote for
newt's contract for america, republicans don't want to come out and vote for republicans. >> the republicans of no. >> exactly. >> as we prepare for no theater in the fall, thank you. ms. bendy straws attacks obama for t.a.r.p., admits obama hasn't tried to take away your guns but knows he wants to. next she'll be reporting he pushed a reporter into a hover craft. and why is john mccain in a commercial with darth vader? tdd# 1-800-345-2550 if i could change one thing... tdd# 1-800-345-2550 we'd all get a ton of great advice tdd# 1-800-345-2550 just for being a client. tdd# 1-800-345-2550 i mean, shouldn't i be able to talk about my money tdd# 1-800-345-2550 without it costing me a fortune? tdd# 1-800-345-2550 if i had my way, tdd# 1-800-345-2550 investment firms would be falling all over themselves tdd# 1-800-345-2550 to help me with my investments. tdd# 1-800-345-2550 (announcer) at charles schwab, investors rule. tdd# 1-800-345-2550 are you ready to rule? [ dog barking ] [ sniffing ] [ male announcer ] missing something?
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sarah palin caught in public once again not wearing any facts. that's ahead. first, the twitter report. just hit exactly 60,000 followers. kate from kentucky, number 60,000. tweet of the day pertinent to lewis black's rant about lonesome rhodes' rant. is his avatar president garfield? garfield asks, can somebody send glenn beck a ticket to the 1943 germany or the 1960 ussr? hitler's scientist's son goes back in time to give the nazis the atomic bomb and an ipad. let's play "oddball." buffalo, hello. yesterday the president ordered a reporter to ride a hovercraft. in town for a speech, the
president brought reporters along for a tour of the industrial support incorporated. intrigued by the leaf blower technology, the president determined he was too big to take a ride, so he volunteered "new york times" reporter to take a ride. >> sheryl, you're pretty small. you can fit on this thing. >> sit down. >> sit down? >> whoa, there she goes! isn't this fun? >> sheryl will be out of the hospital any time now. now if they could make the hover skateboard -- right. and "playboy's" 3-d issue is out today. reuters test it'd on the street. the centerfold shows the playmate holding a glass of
wine. they make the wine come off the page. the two men reuters talked to called the issue cool and interesting. th this. >> it pops out at you, so the picture is far more vivid. if a child gets ahold of this, i'm a lifl bit concerned if they're bit concerned if they're looking at this in 3-d. and the john mccain complete the dang fence ad which he's on patrol with a sheriff far, far away from the border. it's been mocked including the internet where it's gotten the star wars treatment. behold. complete the dang death star. ♪
>> tracking human smuggling, home invasions, murder. >> we're outmanned. of all the illegals in america, more than half come through arizona. >> have we got the right plan? >> the plan's perfect. you bring troops, state, local and county law enforcement together. >> and complete the danged fence. >> it will work this time. senator, you're one of us. >> i'm john mccain, and i approve this message. >> thank you, sheriff vader. miss bendy straws says she misses president bush. she says she hates the t.a.r.p. program. who hath the heart to tell her he started it? that would be me. next.
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office. palilin called the president, t most proabortion president ever to occupy the white house and spoke about her decision to have a baby with downs syndrome, her daughter's decision in the face of an unplanned pregnancy. quote, we're proud of bristol's decision to have the baby. on the topic of george w. bush, good bailouts, bad palin really hit her stride. >> oh, of course i always like to see, too, the sign of the billboard sunshi billboard saying miss me yet? love that one. we do. because when washington goes on a spending spree and started borrowing money to bailout insurance companies and financial institutions and the banks, the automakers and keeps spending endlessly and running up dangerously unsustainable
debt and deficits when expect that our kids and grandkids are going to pay the bills for us, for our overspending today, i think that's immoral, it's unethical, it's not right, and i think that all of us agree on that. >> of course the bank and financial institution part of that bailout litteny kind of thing was hardly pushed by president bush and vice president cheney who were willing to keep a depression from happening under their watch. massive tax cuts for the rich, even the medicare prescription drug program. at her second event today, the national rifle association, she attacked president obama on the second amendment even though obama as a candidate had spoken favorably of a supreme court decision that said washington's ban on handguns had gone too far and as president obama signed legislation which expanded gun rights, including gun owners to carry concealed weapons in national parks. >> president obama and allies like nancy pelosi have been relatively quiet on the gun
control front. not because they don't want to limit your rights but because they're afraid of the political consequences. don't doubt for a minute that if they thought they could get away with it they would ban guns and ban ammunition and gut the second amendment. >> that woman is an idiot. let's bring in the political reporter of "the washington post," dave weigel. good evening. >> good evening. >> tweet, people in the back holding signs saying, we love you tina fey, and sarah palin was born in kenya. i can only guess you were not at that speech, at the other one, but those signs probably weren't up that long and might have been a surprise to the former governor if she saw them. >> oh, no. i guess she's -- she's getting a taste of what it's like to be a normal political candidate which is new, which is a new experience for her. >> exactly. to the first speech, she praised
the tea partiers before, saying she missed president bush which was right before she slammed government bailouts. is anything with the inherent conflict there, the discrepancy to the facts or am i just shooting too high? >> during the campaign she supported the bailouts too and john mccain supported the bailouts. this was in his predang fence completining days. he voted for the bailout. in the story you brought up earlier, talking to the senators, republicans admit that bailouts actually kind of worked. kind of is maybe too weak. they did work. we're getting a lot of that money back. but there's a narrative and michele bachmann said this, palin said this, they started a bailout nation. they started a pattern of the administration giving money to everyone. not quite true. it's a bit more complicated than that. it's just convenient for republicans to go back and rewrite this saying they never wanted this to happen. >> speaking of convenience, you wrote about the remarks on abortion and she does express sympathy for women facing
unwanted pregnancies. but she really talk about the sequences if the supreme court had five justices who agreed with her? >> it's implied. the way she put this at the speech and obviously it was a choir of people who agreed with her, the way she put it was if these women look deep down, they'll realize that the greatest gift they can have is having a kid, whatever the circumstanc circumstances. she talked about looking into trig's face and trig giving her the sense everything would be all right. so it's kind of papering over that and saying you'll be happy if you don't have the choice. and, you know, we don't really get to follow up with her about this. but i think she's actually pretty good, pretty -- one thing, politically she trips over things but she is eloquent when she talks about the life issue. people freeze when they hear her bring it up in those terms. >> last point, the traditional palin crossover with fox. some event every day, something
crosses over. was there one today? >> well, fox was the only network i think getting real good access to palin during the speech. one of their hosts and greta van susteren and her husband who is a big palin ally were there, and we were informed from the stage that palin was doing an interview with greta right now, so there was a sort of a wink and a nod in the audience that palin's talk with greta, with fox was part of the plan all along. >> fabulous. what a journalist. dave weigel of "the washington post." i mean that sincerely with you, not with greta. >> oh, thank you. the bottomless pit, james thurber versus the medicine cabinet in "nine needles." he was driving an 18-wheeler like this, wouldn't stop, they had to bring down strips. you won't believe the cargo he was carrying.
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thurber's "nine needles" next. but first, worst's persons. the bronze to an unidentified driver of an 18-wheeler who led police on a high speed chase that ended in wisconsin. when cops tried to pull him over, he would not stop so they put down spike trips. it took him an hour to get out of the cab. they had to shoot him with bean bags. he was described as confused. he was carrying a big shipment of energy drinks. did you find any empties? runner up, linda mcmahon, her timing is impeccable. she recently released a campaign booklet to voters. here are pages 10 and 11. she says it's time for connecticut to embrace deep water oil rigs.
offshore oil drilling will create jobs and increase energy supply without cost to the taxpayer. unless you count the death of the fish and the beaches and your coastline. remember, when you see the bp gulf spill, think mcmahon for senate. but our winner, senator james inhofe of oklahoma, still making a jackass out of himself, but oddly enough this is not about climate change this time. he's now fighting the repeal of don't ask, don't tell because he says the military is full of homophobes like himself. you have women, men, then a third group to deal with and they're not equipped to do that. you hear the stories all the time. a military guy, they feel when we're out there, we're not doing it for the flag or the country, we're doing it for the guy in the next foxhole and that would dramatically change that. in inhofe assumes our military heroes are as bigoted as he is, inhofe also has his categories all wrong. have you women, men and yes a third group to deal with. the third group is the group
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we close as we always do on fridays with another reading from the works of the american humorist james thurber. this week's offering dates to 1937 in the book "lecture mind alone". >> i'm reading it from james thurber, 92 stories, published in 1985. "nine needles," by james thurber. one of the more spectacular minor happenings of the past few years which i am sorry that i missed took place in the
columbus, ohio, home of some friends of a friend of mine. it seems a mr. albatross while looking for something in his medicine cabinet one morning, discovered a bottle of a kind of patent medicine which his wife had been taking for a stomach ailment. mr. alba tras is one of those hesitant men afraid of patent medicines and other things. some weeks before he encountered a paragraph that announced this particular medicine was bad for you. he had there upon ordered his wife to throw out her supply of the stuff and never buy anymore. she had promised and here now was another bottle of the perilous liquid. mr. albatross, given to quick rages, shoulted the conclusion of the story at my friend. i threw the bottle out the bathroom window and the medicine chest after it. it seems to me that must have been a spectacle worth going a long way to see. i am sure that many a husband has wanted to wrench the family medicine cabinet off the wall and throw it out the window. if only because the average
medicine cabinet is so filled with mysterious bottles and unidentify objects of all kinds that it is a source of constant bewilderment and exasperation to the american male. surely the british medicine cabinet and the french medicine cabinet and all the other medicine cabinets must be simpler and better ordered than ours. it may be that the american habit of saving things and never throwing anything away, even empty bottles, causes the domestic medicine cabinet to become as cluttered in its small way as the american attic becomes cluttered. i haven't encountered many that weren't pack jammed with something between 150 and 200 different items from dental floss to razor blades, adhesive tape to coconut oil. even the neatest wife will put off clearing out the medicine cabinet on the ground she has something else to do that is more important at the moment or more diverting.
it was in the apartment of such a wife that i became enormously involved with a medicine cabinet one morning not long ago. i had spent the weekend with this couple. they live on east 10th street near fifth avenue. such a weekend has left me reluctant to rise up in the morning with bright and shining face and go to work. they got up and went to work, but i didn't get up until about 2:30 in the afternoon. i had my face all lathered for shaving and the wash bowl was full of hot water when suddenly i cut myself with the razor. i cut my ear. very few men cut their ears with razors. but on the other hand, i was one of them. possibly because i was taught the old spencerian free wrist movement by my writing teacher in the grammar grades. the ear bleeds profusely. more angry than hurt, i jerked open the door and out fell from the top shelf a little black paper packet containing nine
needles. it seems that this wife kept a little paper packet containing nine needles on the top shelf of the medicine cabinet. the packet fell into the soapy water of the wash bowl where the paper rapidly disintegrated leaving nine needles at large in the bowl. i was naturally enough not in the best condition either physical or mental to recover nine needles from a wash bowl. no gentleman who has lather on the face and ears bleeding is in the best condition for anything, even handling of nine large blunt objects. it did not seem wise to me to pull the plug out of the wash bowl and let the needles go down the drain. i had visions of clogging up the plumbing system of the house and also a vague fear of causing short circuits somehow or other. i know very little about electricity. and i don't want to have it explained to me. finally, i groped very gently around the bowl and eventually
had four of the needles in the palm of one hand and three in the palm of the other. two i couldn't find. a lathered man whose ear is bleeding, three wet needles and four in the other, may have been said to reach the lowest known point of human efficiency. there is nothing one can do but stand there. i tried transferring the needles in my left hand to the palm of my right hand but i couldn't get them off my wet hand. wet needles cling to you. in the end i wiped them on a bath towel that was hanging on a rod above the bathtub. it was the only towel i could find. i had to dry my hands on the bath mat. then i tried to find the needles in the towel. hunting for seven needles in a bath towel is the most tedious occupation i engaged in. i could find only five. that means some were lying in the bathtub under the towel. frightful